Predicting Buffalo Bills' Free Agent Signings

Ryan TalbotContributor IMarch 3, 2013

Predicting Buffalo Bills' Free Agent Signings

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    Free agency is a little more than a week away and the Buffalo Bills have money to spend.

    Being realistic, Buffalo won't make a splash like they did last year when they were able to woo Mario Williams, the defensive prize of free agency, and fellow defensive end Mark Anderson.

    But the Bills have made many moves over the past few weeks to get ready for free agency.

    The team cut ties with veterans Nick Barnett and George Wilson on February 11. Terrence McGee was let go three days later on February 14.

    On February 15, Buffalo re-signed Tarvaris Jackson to a one-year, $1.75 million deal. Backup OL Colin Brown re-signed with Buffalo on February 19 for a base salary of $630,000 in 2013.

    Restricted free agents David Nelson and Donald Jones were not tendered and will also be going elsewhere in free agency.

    On February 27, defensive end Chris Kelsay announced his retirement.

    Following Kelsay's retirement, Matt Warren of BuffaloRumblings.com wrote a fantastic piece that calculated Buffalo's cap space to be near $28 million.

    Since then, Jairus Byrd was franchised on March 1. Byrd's franchise tag will cost the Bills $6.8 million and reduces Buffalo's cap space to $21.2 million.

    And, finally, if Buffalo does not trade of any of its picks, its rookie class will cost $5,180,294.

    If nothing else changes between now and the start of free agency on March 12, the Bills will have a little more than $16 million to spend on free agents.

    Considering the holes the team has to fill, it's hard to envision Buffalo going after the likes of Paul Kruger, Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace, all of whom figure to be too expensive.

    Buffalo has to be smart with its $16 million, so keep that in mind when reading my potential targets.

FS Dashon Goldson

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    Buffalo will only be able to sign one "bigger name" free agent and Goldson would be intriguing.

    According to Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, WR Stevie Johnson has made a pitch to Goldson along with Dwayne Bowe and Greg Jennings. When speaking with Goldson, Johnson had this to say: "I just asked him, 'Who would you want to go to?' Out of his lips, he was talking about Buffalo a lot," Johnson said. "I'm, like, 'Man!'''

    Now, if I were a potential free agent, I'd gush about all 32 teams since I want to be paid by someone. So Goldson talking about Buffalo could be nothing more than a way to get an offer from the team. If it's the highest offer he receives, perhaps he comes to Buffalo. If not, the Bills could simply be used as leverage.

    One reason that Goldson may want to play in Buffalo is to play alongside fellow FS Jairus Byrd.

    As pointed out by Graham, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine didn't designate FS and SS when he was with the Jets. This would allow the Bills to have two talented safeties on the field at the same time.

    Goldson was franchised in 2012 by the 49ers for about $6.2 million. In 2013, I expect Goldson to look to receive close to this amount annually by a team.

    In 2012, Goldson was ranked as the 20th-best safety in the league by Pro Football Focus. He tied with Dwight Lowery as the 10th-best coverage safety.

    Goldson also was called for six penalties in 2012, the most among safeties in the league.

    Coming off a Pro Bowl appearance, Goldson would be an expensive addition, but a great fit in Pettine's defense.

    Projected Yearly Salary: $6.5 million

    Remaining Cap Space: $9.5 million

ILB Bart Scott

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    I'd love for the Bills to bring in Dannell Ellerbe or Brad Jones, but Bart Scott is the most realistic option.

    This will be Scott's second experience with free agency, and it's safe it say it'll be much different this time around.

    In 2009, Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine were in Scott's driveway at midnight on the first day of free agency as the Jets were trying to convince him to leave the Ravens

    Fast forward to 2013, and Scott will be lucky to get a phone call at midnight on March 12th.

    Scott is a step slower and known more for his talk than his play.

    That said, it's vital that the Bills bring in  veteran from the Jets who is familiar with Pettine's system and playbook.

    While Scott is a shell of his former self, he was still somewhat productive in 2012.

    He doesn't necessarily believe he's slowing down. He blames his poor play on a toe injury he sustained in Week 3.

    Last season, Pro Football Focus ranked Scott as the 18th-best ILB in the league.

    His overall rating was a far cry from that of Patrick Willis, the top-ranked ILB.

    According to PFF, Scott is most effective as a pass-rusher, where he's the ninth best in the league at his position.

    Scott's best days are behind him, but he could still play a pivotal role for the Bills in 2013. Buffalo should offer him slightly more than the veteran minimum

    Projected Yearly Salary: $1 million

    Remaining Cap Space: $8.5 million

WR Brandon Gibson

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    Brandon Gibson is an underrated wide receiver in my eyes.

    I'm not the only person who feels this way.  ESPN lists him as an under-the-radar free agent (Insider content).

    Gibson is 25 years old and coming off a season when he caught 51 passes for 691 yards and five touchdowns.

    The former Rams wide receiver runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, so he has the speed you look for in an outside receiver. At 6'0", Gibson also has decent size.

    Among the positives in Gibson's game is his route-running ability. Gibson also has reliable hands, dropping only five passes in 2012.

    The only knock on Gibson is that he doesn't necessarily play as fast as his 4.4 speed.

    According to PFF, Gibson was the 39th-best receiver in the NFL in 2012 based on its criteria in receiving, blocking, rushing and penalties.

    In terms of receiving, Gibson was ranked 23rd, tied with Hakeem Nicks of the Giants.

    On the free agent market, Gibson is going to receive a fair amount of interest. Buffalo would be wise to go after him early. He could be a target for many teams once Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings and others start signing deals.

    Projected Yearly Salary: $3.5 million

    Remaining Cap Space: $5 million

CB Leodis McKelvin

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    There are plenty of cornerbacks available in free agency, but Buffalo is likely to stick with a familiar face in Leodis McKelvin.

    On February 21, Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix told buffalobills.com that the team wants to bring back McKelvin: “Leodis is a guy we’d like to keep,” Nix said.

    McKelvin didn't turn out to be the shutdown cornerback the team had hoped for after selecting him 11th overall in the 2008 draft, but he played respectably in 2012.

    Multiple injuries threw McKelvin into Buffalo's starting lineup and, to his credit, he played well.

    McKelvin finished as the 34th-best cornerback in 2012, according to PFF.

    He also excelled on special teams. PFF rated him as the league's top kick returner in 2012.

    McKelvin had 23 punt returns for 431 yards, an average of 18.7 yards. He returned two punts for touchdowns. On 18 kick returns, McKelvin averaged 28.3 yards a return.

    He is only 27 years old, so he still has plenty of years left to play. In Mike Pettine's defense, McKelvin could turn the corner and show his worth.

    McKelvin said he hopes to start at cornerback. In Buffalo, he'd likely be given his first crack as a starter in training camp opposite Stephon Gilmore.

    Projected Yearly Salary: $3 million

    Remaining Cap Space: $2 million

DE Mike DeVito

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    With $2 million to burn, Buffalo should bring in Mike DeVito to play as a rotational defensive end with Mark Anderson.

    DeVito is another veteran familiar with Pettine's system, and he could greatly help Anderson, Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus make the transition.

    DeVito's value can't be questioned, according to PFF. In 2012, DeVito was ranked as the 10th-best DE in a 3-4 defense.

    Run defense, a major weakness for the Bills, was the area in which DeVito shined. His PFF rating was seventh best among defensive ends in a 3-4.

    DeVito is not a starting defensive end, but Buffalo doesn't need a starter. His role as a run stopper on first and second down would benefit the Bills greatly.

    Projected Yearly Salary: $2 million

    Remaining Cap Space: $0

New-Look Bills

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    With these additions, the Bills' roster would still have holes to fill. Quarterback, wide receiver and outside linebacker would be the team's biggest needs heading into the 2013 NFL draft.

    A wide receiver or linebacker would be my priority in Round 1. My targets would be Geno Smith, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo or Jarvis Jones, depending upon his health.

    At wide receiver, the team could target DeAndre Hopkins, Justin Hunter, Robert Woods, Quinton Patton or Terrance Williams in the second round. Da'Rick Rogers is another WR the team could look at in the second round, but he may fall to the third.

    As for QB, Buffalo could address the position in Round 2 with the likes of Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson or EJ Manuel. Tyler Bray could be another target in the third round.

    In the later rounds, Buffalo could look to add another tight end, then pick best available player.

    Bills fans, should I send my resume to Doug Whaley, the team's heir apparent at GM, or stick to my day job?